From: Alice Taylor
Activists Condemn Right-Wing Violence at Belgrade EuroPride

Almost ninety people were arrested by police while activists reported assaults from those countering the EuroPride march which saw over 10,000 people march despite a police ban with government backing.

Thousands of activists took to the streets in the Serbian capital on Saturday, including those from neighbouring countries such as Albania and Kosovo. Asides from the arrests, 10 police officers and a vehicle were damaged, and several activists were hospitalised after vicious attacks by counter-protestors.

“Almost 10,000 people gathered to fight for equality, solidarity and human rights. Today Belgrade saw the largest Pride ever and we should all be proud of that,” the Belgrade Pride team said in a press release. More than 130 events took place in Belgrade as part of EuroPride week, from 12 September to Saturday.

Executive Director of IGLA Europe, who was in Belgrade for the event, told EURACTIV that the fact the march took place should not be taken as a sign the government is upholding its obligations on the right to freedom of assembly.

“The Serbian government did everything in their power until the very last minute to obstruct, to discourage, and to intimidate the organisers. Beyond the Pride march itself, the risks of increased vulnerability to violence and hatred are today very real for citizens anti-LGBTI statements by political and religious leaders in Serbia,” she said.

She accused Vucic of instrumentalising the community for political purposes, particularly to drive forward far-right and anti-democratic forces.

A group of Albanian activists who attended the march in solidarity were brutally attacked on their way back to their hotel. Two ended up requiring hospitalisation, while the others reported being shaken up.

Activist Xheni Karaj who was amongst them, said the police did nothing to intervene or prevent the attack although they were in the vicinity at the time.

Albanian Ambassador to Serbia Ilir Bocka told EURACTIV he had not received any call from those attacked but that he was “following the situation with great attention.

Those who have protested against the march have brandished banners with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face as religious symbols and are also linked to a biker group that supports the Moscow regime.

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said that the parade’s security cost the state about €3 million, and almost 6,000 police were involved.

The Balkan EU membership hopeful has been under intense pressure over the last two weeks after Vucic said the march should be banned, and police moved to do so a few days before it took place. Activists, with the full support of MEPs, EU ambassadors, and human rights organisations, were steadfast that the march would still occur.

European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, who visited Belgrade on the occasion of EuroPride, said that political will for the right values was important to achieving equality.

Dalli, who met with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, said, “political will and steering society toward the right values is a very important factor in working to achieve equality in every country.”

There was a heavy police presence on the ground, with authorities pushing back counter-protestors who brandished crosses and religious placards. Media on the ground saw police taking away several counter-protestors who were largely responsible for the disruption.